Saturday, November 22, 2014


One of the "advantages" of having mostly conservative (especially a few really conservative) Facebook friends is that you get direct links to some odd shit. We're talking about stuff that makes Whirled Nut Daily look like the Utne Reader.

One such outlet is something pulled out of (let's say) Jerry Corsi's gaping asshole, called (hilariously) Western Journalism. One such "article" (the entire site seems to be an incompetent mishmash of half-witted conspiracy theories and circus-freak clickbait) involves the hapless Duggar family, whom you may recall as the goofball Arkansas cultists whose sole claim to fame is doing what just about every human can do, just way too much of it.

Apparently some five-figured number of gay-rights supporters have e-signed and e-petition to cancel 19 Kids and Counting, not because the entire premise of the show can be gleaned from the title, and therefore every episode is interchangeable, but because they tried to start a stupid meme and got trolled by same-sex couples, and took those eeevil fotoz down. Oh noez!

So of course e-supporters from the "other" "side" of the e-divide sharpened their e-crayons, and proceeded to self-actualize by e-signing their e-petition exhorting TLC -- which, let's step back and recall for a hot moment, putatively stands for The Learning Channel -- to keep the show on the air.

Does it really need to be said that whether or not this dumb fucking show about these dumb fucking people (and really, take a look at the ricockulous clickbait items on the right sidebar at the HollywoodLife link -- "Jessa Duggar & Ben Seewald:  Why They Didn't Have First Wedding Kiss"; what sort of inbred maroon cares?) gets cancelled is entirely based upon whether it gets good ratings or not? And amazingly, it does. Someone actually tunes into this nonsense, for some reason.

Like Duck Dynasty, this sort of stuff is just the usual cultural self-affirmation, a reminder of a largely mythical time when those people knew their place, and Jebus brought the Constitution down from hebbin to explain to the Founding Fathers (in English, doncha know) what the deal was.

I really could not possibly care less whether or not 19 Kids gets kicked to the curb or not. It's not like religious fanatics haven't had shows cancelled that that they found offensive. There can't possibly be any more to this premise, than watching the grown kids conceive and start ludicrously large families of their own. The Duggars are a "traditional" family only in the most archaic sense of the word, a vestige of a time when life was short and there were acres of subsistence crops to tend to.

I think this "quiverfull" bullshit is just that, especially on a groaning, strained planet at the extent of its resources, vastly overpopulated as it is. If everyone decided, like these religious fanatics, that viral over-breeding was the thing to do, we'd have twenty billion people, instead of just seven billion. The idiocy is in thinking that something will come along and work out and enable that to happen, because something always comes along. And that's just not true; every tsunami and earthquake and hurricane that takes thousands of lives is the earth sneezing, attempting to expel the virus which has overrun it.

That's a bit polemic, but the core truth still holds; the planet is optimized for maybe 2 billion people tops. After that, the issue of finite resources tend to become an issue. Good luck when the majority of humanity, who live in poverty-ridden, over-populated places like China and India, catch up with the West in resource consumption. That is the endgame of thinking you can just have a couple dozen kids, turn your vagina into a clown car, and that there will be no environmental effects.

It's to be expected that in an enormous (and enormously diverse) nation there will be manifold buffooneries, each more puzzling and laughable than the next. What's tricky is figuring out whether the cultural buffooneries inform the political ones, or the other way around. Probably a bit of both.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spanish Fly

So, uh, this Cosby thing, right? I can't recall offhand which one in the flurry of commenters said, as this story was breaking hard a week or so ago, something to the effect that it was having trouble sticking because most Americans, growing up in an era of Cosby as this benevolent icon, mugging for his teevee family and endorsements for pudding and Coke, just didn't want to live in a world where this man was a serial rapist.

It's why, obviously, such celebrity transgressors typically get the benefit of the doubt for so long. Cosby has epitomized the image of the jovial, avuncular figure for longer than many of us have been alive, and has in recent years become more well-known as the voice of what some have called "organic black conservatism," essentially a call for more conventional goals of responsibility for blacks, especially men.

Cosby's calls to the next generations for more and better bootstrapping both have a ring of truth that transcends race, gender, and even age, yet still do not exactly harmonize with the reality of the post-job nirvana American society has achieved in its globalized rutting frenzy. The urban and poor communities have been hardest hit by many of these episodes of outsourcing. Telling the kids to knuckle down, pull their shit together, scramble to get to college to rack up a lifetime of debt, yada yada, works for some, right up to the point the kid gets out and realizes the game was rigged all along, in a way that Grandpa Huxtable cannot possibly fathom, because it didn't exist back in the '80s -- it was conceived then.

These exhortations are relevant to the current discussion, because where normally time has a way of smoothing the rough edges of prickly characters, for Cosby it seems to have had the opposite effect -- where in the heyday of The Cosby Show (a show which I might have caught once or twice, if that, for the record, and even then probably just to check out Lisa Bonet) his public image seemed pretty bulletproof, Cosby over the last decade or so has become perceived as more of a curmudgeonly "you damned kids" sort. Of course that has no bearing on whether he is or isn't a serial rapist, but it does seem to have made him just a bit less unassailable.

Certainly there is no shortage of women who make bullshit accusations against men, famous or not, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the men do hard time based on those lies. I think that women who fabricate rape allegations should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I think that women who accuse anonymously and try to fuck up a famous man's life or career should not be surprised or indignant when the man contemplates using his resources to retaliate forcefully against her. I agree that their fabrications harm actual rape victims, raise the specter of doubt across the board.

Did Conor Oberst have a "power disparity"? Of course, and it's reasonable to speculate that many other women do not come forward against celebrity rapists precisely because of that fear. But in Oberst's case, he also had a lot to lose from the anonymous -- yet public! -- fabrications of "Joanie Faircloth". She probably should consider herself fortunate that she didn't choose to defame a more litigious person. Fuck libel, let's try obstruction of justice.

Few crimes have as peculiar a dynamic as rape. Until the relatively recent advent of reliable DNA analysis and forensics, it was one of the more difficult crimes to prove conclusively, by nature frequently devolving to "he said-she said" interpretations of whether the crime took place, and to what degree. It is probably the only crime where, even when the victim is an adult, their name remains anonymous (justifiably so), yet the alleged perpetrator's name is instantly emblazoned on every media outlet far and wide.

(Then there's the inconvenient probability that the US is the only country where more men are raped than women. Probably the only country where it's considered high-larious too, just so long as it's perpetrated by some giant buck on a trembling new fish. Git 'im, Bubba, hee hee! That shit happens every day, right now, not thirty or forty years ago, all across the country, with the complicity of the people employed by the taxpayers to prevent it. And no one says jack shit about it.)

If there's a single factor that leads me to lean slightly toward the "Cosby probably did it, or at least some of it" camp, it's the sheer number of accusations so far. One, perhaps two accusations, without any hard proof and the distance of time, make it much easier to dismiss as a cynical, baseless attempt to ruin a good man. But Cosby's accusers number in the mid-teens so far. As Ta-Nehisi Coates says, it's hard to believe so many individuals would agree to participate in a conspiracy of spite with no clear motive.

But let's play devil's advocate for a second:  thirteen of those accusers are (unnamed) women who were deposed and set to testify in Andrea Constand's 2006 civil suit against Cosby, which was settled, and so their stories were not heard. Apparently in all of their cases the statute of limitations had run out, so they couldn't go to the authorities to investigate and prosecute. But unless they were getting part of Constand's settlement, there should have been nothing stopping them from going public with their stories there and then.

Just as it's difficult to believe that over a dozen people would suddenly decide to take a swing at Bill Cosby, it's also difficult to believe that if all of those same individuals had been raped by Cosby, that they would just drop the whole thing. And Janice Dickinson coming forward doesn't exactly add any credibility. From everything I've had the misfortune of seeing or reading about Dickinson, she's just awful, probably playing up to the reality-teevee cameras, but a little too much and too willingly. She plays "crazier than a shithouse rat" just a little too well. I wouldn't give Charles Manson a parking ticket based on Janice Dickinson's word.

The media just piles on wherever they can, especially when there's even a whiff of fame; a prime example of this sort of thing is characterized by the execrable Don Lemon, who essentially asked one of Cosby's alleged victims why, when Cosby supposedly drugged her and stuck his cock in her mouth, she didn't just use her teeth to dissuade him from wanting a blowjob. In a just world, Don Lemon would be asking you if you would like fries with your burger, but I don't know anyone who lives in such a world.

I have very little doubt that Cosby, an admitted poon-hound, used his fame and status to entice and seduce aspiring starlets, and bang them every chance he could. It is probably at least as seedy and sordid as the most lurid Jackie Collins potboiler. And while there is an unsettling consistency to the known alleged incidents that have come forward, there is still no proof.

And you used to need proof to ruin someone's career. We used to at least pretend to look at all sides, all possibilities, all likelihoods, all the evidence, before rendering a verdict. Now it has to be filtered through an agenda, whether it's "Conor Oberst hurts all rape victims by protecting himself against a false accusation that could send him to prison or ruin his career" or some "men's rights" douchebag that instinctively wants to defend every date-rapey broseph.

Even before charges are filed there are frequently consequences for those accused of rape. Keep in mind that Cosby has not been charged with anything, and in fact, will probably never be charged with anything. Yet he has already lost two occupational opportunities.

This is a man whose last significant career choices took place over two decades ago; Cosby has been living off residuals, both financial and cultural. They seem to have run out on him. He's already been tried and found guilty in the court of media and public opinion.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's Not Even Past

Let's not put too fine a point on it -- if the events and actions and social dynamics in the south over the past 150 have taught us anything, it's that Billy the Torch didn't go nearly far enough. The fact that there are still no shortage of fools in that region who persist in mythologizing what was nothing more (or less) than a brutal, racist, genocidal machine, a society built on nothing but the extracted blood and unpaid toil and pain of others, only reinforces that fact.

People like Jack Bridwell suppress and avoid those truths because they are inconvenient, difficult to accept. Republican politics since 1964 has taken advantage of that revolting, absurdist mentality, and owned the entire region since then. That is not a coincidence.

Nationally, that strategy has translated into soft-focus gimmickry, mostly revolving around mythologizing an America that never was. The verb that pops up most consistently in their marketing materials is "restore"; they continuously promise to "restore" "America," whether that's "values," "greatness," whatever. I think the word they're really looking for is "instauration," which is very similar but not precisely the same.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Just wondering what it might be like if this country had, say, a governmental agency that provided regulation and oversight on an untrustworthy and reckless financial industry. Even better might be if there was another governmental department that ensured that when financiers were caught doing awful things -- such as rigging currency and interest rates, money laundering for drug cartels, all the other things these fuckers have been caught doing over and over again -- that these crimes which literally affect everyone's lives and wallets would be prosecuted aggressively and appropriately.

When the next financial crash comes -- and rest assured, it will -- I hope Eric Holder understands his direct role in all of it, that his indifference and unwillingness to drop the hammer on these sociopaths only emboldens them. And I also hope that when it comes, and these thieves try to make us all pay for their bullshit again, that instead they are treated to tumbrels and guillotines.

Cross Purposes

I wasn't aware of this freaky asshole until just the other day, and right away you wish you didn't know about him. It's at least some consolation that his small congregation has lost more than 80% since 2007, so it's more like a black Westboro, an insular claque run by a closet-case nutjob and supported by family members and assorted dead-enders. The story and dynamic of James Manning and his silly circus draw some interesting parallels (at least to me) about cultural norms and expectations, and our responses to religiously inspired bouts of lunacy.

No doubt you are aware of the recent kerfuffle involving Bill Maher, Ben Affleck, and UC Berkeley. Maher had been invited to speak at Berkeley's December commencement, but was disinvited after he and Affleck (along with professional atheist author/provocateur Sam Harris) got into a shouting match over Islam on Maher's HBO show. The issue was that Maher had defamed Islam with his comments, which were certainly strident to say the least, and he got called out on it yet again just last week with Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal.

(Gratuitous sexist editorial note:  Rula Jebreal is smokin' hot, and really sharp, which of course just makes her hotter. I don't agree with every single thing she says, but good grief, she's beautiful. Even if she is married to a Goldman Sachs heir.)

It takes some unpacking, and perhaps some extra attention -- along with the acknowledgement that Maher, in his bluster, is broad-brushing a bit with his portrayals of Islamic fanatics -- but the fact is that the core of Maher's contention is correct:  Liberals (meaning Western liberals, Americans and Europeans) don't do a very good job of acknowledging and decrying not just the video atrocities of the fanatics, but of the day-to-day oppression people endure under putatively Islamic regimes.

One thing I think Westerners don't quite get about Islamic societies is how interwoven religion and culture are. The most-cited "big distinctions" between Christianity and Islam are that Islam has not had a Reformation or Enlightenment type of large-scale adjustment, nor does it have a centralized authority or hierarchy. On the one hand, that latter factor allows for more dissenting voices; on the other, it makes it tougher to crack down on the violent wingnuts that spring up. But the church-state separation that we take for granted -- even if it is with a wink and a nod in the south -- is practically non-existent in the belt of Islamic countries.

Stretching west to east from Morocco to Indonesia, it's not exactly a continuum or spectrum, but at least in those two bookend countries one finds a more secularized, even liberalized (compared to some of the more infamous countries in between) co-existence of religion and government. Even poor Tunisia recently had a step in the right direction, and Jordan has long been a bastion of moderation in a sea of fanaticism. And it's not as if the greed for oil in the west hasn't played a huge part in stoking said fanaticism. There are no clean hands here.

But liberals, whatever their ecumenical aspirations, need to more forcefully acknowledge that they would not want to be female in most of these countries, would not want to be gay in these places. The things they complain about the most when it comes to American Christian goofballs -- which, while annoyingly routine, are not quite normative -- are commonplace and worse in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan. Your average Duggar-smacking limo-lib would not last two weeks in Yemen, or any country whose official name begins with "The Islamic Republic of". Bokay? That's just how it is, and false pieties about cultural imperialism and such like don't change that fact.

Either you believe that women should be allowed to drive, or not have the shit beaten out of them for going to the store alone, or not be buried up to their waists and have rocks thrown at them until they die for "adultery," or that homosexuals shouldn't be hung by cables from cranes, or you don't believe those things. Or hell, just that women need to spend their entire adult lives sweltering in a fucking beekeeper suit, because it's the seventh century or something. That's the stuff that goes on and on, every goddamned day, whether it gets reported in the corporate media or not.

I refuse to acknowledge the feasibility of societies that repress their people in such ways for such picayune things. I'm not gonna pretend that it's not bullshit, that more generations of the people who live in those countries need to just wait it out, and hope that their great-great-grandchildren won't be butchered for throwing away a Qu'ran or teaching girls to read. If we call bullshit on our homegrown loons, we have to do the same with those abroad.

Don't get me wrong. I do not in any way wish to impose western values and mores upon any of these societies, beyond the universally obvious ones of basic human rights. Western societies certainly have their flaws to answer for, but violent over-reaction to nonsense is not one of them. We do not riot and kill people for writing books, not even shitty books. (I don't mean that The Satanic Verses is shitty, I mean that we have an overabundance of crap in general.)

As far as I'm concerned -- and I believe that Maher has made himself clear that this is where he's coming from on this -- is that to the extent one needs to voice their support or disapproval of various comings and goings and deeds of seven billion fools heading in almost as many directions, there should be some consistency as to what sort of things (that is, actions) one disapproves of or supports. Again, soon as you start parsing whether it's "one of ours" doing something awful as opposed to "them," you've lost the thread. It's the action that's horrible; frequently it's the person committing the deed as well, but the focus should be on the deed itself. The world never runs short of morons and assholes doing and saying stupid things, change the things and you hopefully change the people doing them. Eyes on the ball, son.

Nor would I advocate for a complete abolition of religion. Sure, there are countless examples of it poisoning the proverbial well, substituting for critical thought and motivating violent action. But there are just as many examples of it providing comfort and solace to the desperate and hopeless. The religion itself -- whether Islam, Christianity, Scientology, whatever -- is not the problem, the problem is absolutism, the problem is seriously thinking that violence is the best solution to transgressing that absolutism.

To be sure, I have given the cafeteria believers a hard time, but certainly a more syncretic belief system, however much "outside" the club rules, is preferable to the lunacy that pervades the Wahhabist strains of what was once a scientifically and intellectually innovative system of thought. And as Jebreal points out in the Salon interview, liberal Americans who support Israel (and I'd count myself in that group) also need to be critical of Zionist actions that oppress Palestinian lives heedlessly and needlessly. It is what it is, as the kids are fond of saying, but the corollary is that it usually doesn't have to be the way it is.

The truth is that the most virulent adherents of all three Abrahamic religions routinely excuse or ignore their transgressions and vicissitudes, and even their more moderate co-religionists will squint and wince rather than protest. So it is with any belief system, or more precisely, any power bloc. Because that's really all any religion is.

Which brings us back to "Pastor" Manning, and more specifically the anti-gay tirades that his church and other black churches have indulged in over the years, and encouraged their congregants to vote on. Considering that much of the anti-gay-marriage rhetoric in general has echoed the arguments fifty years ago against blacks and whites marrying, it would seem that black organizations and black individuals have perhaps an emphasized responsibility to speak out forcefully against such discrimination. And to their credit, the NAACP, other black organizations and politicians, and individuals black Americans have said exactly that.

But you're never going to get 100%, for a variety of reasons, just as you're never going to get 100% of Muslims around the world protesting the actions of ISIS, or the Saudis, or the Iranian mullahs, or whoever. They have lives to live, and sometimes the best they can do is just to stay out of it, and at least not even tacitly endorse it.

And the more we drone-bomb "terrorist" areas, without troubling ourselves much to ensure that everyone -- or even anyone -- hit by the strike is actually a threat to us or anyone else, the more we radicalize the Muslims in the area who are already on the fence, and the more we risk alienating the moderate Muslims who live and work in western countries.

But people of whatever race, religion, sexuality, etc., who profess to uphold liberal ideals of basic human rights and social justice, have a principled obligation to decry all of those things. Is it racially or culturally "insensitive" to insist that human beings should be treated well and as equally as possible, that treating women like farm animals and using gays as scapegoats is unnecessary and regressive? So be it.

As for the campus groups that tried to remove Maher, and have removed speakers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, they need to keep in mind that freedom of speech is also a putatively liberal ideal, and that it is only important when it protects people we might not agree with. Intelligent adults should be able to hear things they don't agree with and take them into consideration, weigh them against their already-held principles. Only children and demagogues need to hear the soothing amen choir every single time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Insane in the Membrane

It's no surprise that Bo Dietl is an ignorant, jingoist asshole, but I didn't realize that he'd lost his fucking mind. Someone might want to tell Bo about decaf.

Also, too -- people are still listening to Don Imus? I mean, I guess Paul Harvey's audience needed somewhere to mosey off to after that clown bought the farm, but shit. I almost feel like we should all chip in and get these angry codgers the Murder She Wrote and Matlock box sets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race to the Bottom

It's in the nature of partisan commentators, in the wake of an electoral blowout, to spend time attributing the loss of clearly better ideas and candidates to the calumnious nature of the opponent, the shameless excess of their bankrollers, and of course, racism. That's the job. And certainly there's an element of all those things in last week's smackdown of the Democrats.

It's not a coincidence that just about the only demographics Obama didn't win in his 2008 beatdown of Poor Ol' Straight Talk were men, old people, and southerners (and he barely won the white vote, 49-48). So guess who showed up to vote last Tuesday?

So rather than whinging yet again about the pernicious (and yes, all too real) influence of the vile Koch brothers, Democrats have to be honest with themselves about why they really lost:

  1. Barely a third of eligible voters showed up.
  2. The ones that did show up were the usual fucking maroons that can't wait to cut their own throats electorally.
  3. Every one of the Democratic candidates spent most of their time showing how Republican they secretly were. Way to mobilize your base, assholes.

Thomas Frank does have a valid point about how the Democratic party has, in general, become the voice of a technocratic, professional-managerial class. They apparently bought into the Clinton-era NAFTA-GATT-globalization gospel, the one that insisted that the Chinese and Indians would make our crap for five cents a week while we all sold each other ten-dollar coffees and optimized spreadsheets and such like.

It's like it never occurred to them that gutting American companies and outsourcing American jobs would actually result in a tiny, insatiable claque of pelf-grubbing weasels, with a slightly larger class of upwardly ambitious (if not actually mobile) supervisors, with the other 90% or so stuck at the bottom. Did these people not attend high school? Or did they know what would happen, and just didn't give a shit? It doesn't matter -- it boils down to incompetence or indifference (at best), and neither one helps.

If Sarah Palin has ever been accurate about anything she's said, it's about the whole hopey-changey thing working out. Yes, there are mitigating factors. Obama could not get the Republicans to work with him -- but part of that was because he didn't make them respect him. The stock market continues to chug along at record levels, but only about half of American households own stock at all (mostly 401(k) plans and pension funds), and the top 10% own 80% of the wealth. And the median wage is still where it was back in 1974.

Greed has ruined this country, and attempted to placate the masses by alternately telling them that poor people are poor because they're dumb and/or lazy, and that they (the peons) can join the rich man's club someday, if they just keep their noses to the grindstone and don't ask too many questions. But the 10%-owning-80% should be the clue, if Americans weren't so bad at math.

If you work in an office with nine other people, and someone brings in a dozen donuts, and one person takes ten of those donuts, leaving everyone else to portion out the other two donuts, what should the rest of the office think about that one asshole? Even if he's the one that bought and brought in the donuts, it's a fucking dick move, period.

That's what the economy is anymore, and neither Obama nor the next occupant can or will do anything about it. It's a waste of time to worry and wonder, as Frank does, about why Georgia, the state with the highest unemployment rates, just elected as governor a man who is proud of his career as an outsourcer. Sometimes people don't understand the obvious until they get one broken off in their ass. So Georgia, and Kansas, and Iowa, and the rest of them are about to find out what that's like.

Maybe the young Democratic voters get off their dead asses and vote next time; maybe the Democrats find better and bolder candidates next time. Maybe the peons, liberal and conservative, old and young, brown and white, get tired of this shell game being perpetrated on their lives, and the lives of their children and communities, and do something that actually makes a difference.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cruz Control

Wasting no time in his eternal quest to be Asshole of the Year, every year, Canadian-born Goldman Sachs spouse Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz, Jr. flexes his fake vox populi muscles, taking on those eeeevil regulators who ensure that anonymous dipshits like you 'n' me have the same access to the public internets as he, "Ted" Cruz, has.

This is an issue where Obama is right and Cruz is wrong, plain and simple. In fact, precisely because our telecom system is really just a profit-sucking oligopoly that thwarts competition and innovation, Americans already pay more money for worse performance. Jesus H. Christ, Moldova -- noted primarily for being the poorest, most repressive country on the European continent -- has better performance than the US, like a 50% higher download rate.

I resent this stuffy, squawky little prick, Cruz, with his shrill voice and strident tone, really more of a male Sarah Palin than anything, with his stupid square-peg-round-hole metaphors. How the fuck is net neutrality anything like "Obamacare," which, it should be noted, is more of a success than a failure so far, despite literally half of the entire Congress actively working to ensure its abject failure?

The thing to keep in mind is, if you look at the various worldwide markets for internet service, North America has one of the smallest markets in terms of population, and by far the highest amount of market penetration at 84.9 percent. Europe is next, at 68.3%, followed by the tiny Oceania/Australia market -- smaller than California! -- at barely two-thirds penetration. By way of comparison, the Asian market, estimated to be nearly 4 billion strong, has less than one-third penetration. Africa, whose market is nearly four times the size of North America's has just 21.3% penetration.

That means that just about everyone who wants internet access in the US has it already, while there are other far larger markets out there waiting to be exploited. But where Europe and Asia actually have a competitive environment and government involvement in ensuring affordable, high-quality services, the monopolistic conditions here guarantee the opposite outcome.

Internet access is no longer a luxury, you need it to search and apply for employment, to access news and information, any number of things. Squashing Net Neutrality cements the monopolistic practices already in place, makes a bad situation worse, and more usurious (with, again, even shittier service) for the people who can least afford it.

From radio to television to HDTV to the Internet, the telecom industry has been one of the greediest, sleaziest rackets on the face of this planet. The airwaves, according to the FCC Charter, belong to the people. At least in theory. This notion has yet to actually be put into practice.